MORE than 1.4 million GP appointments – which equates to five per person – were carried out in Barnsley during a year, new figures obtained by the Chronicle have revealed.

Approximately 80 per cent were face-to-face and nearly 50 per cent of all appointments happened on the same or next day.

The pandemic brought with it a rise in long-distance appointments and growing waiting lists, but the latest figures show numbers of face-to-face appointments are now creeping back to pre-Covid levels.

A report, which will be discussed by councillors on Tuesday, said: “This is an update on the work done in primary care to recover from the Covid pandemic and improve access, experience and outcomes, whilst serving to promote understanding of the range of services residents can access in person or online, including new ways of working.

“Work has previously been done within primary care to supplement the ‘traditional’ general practice workforce and to increase the offer of care and support available closer to home.

“The pandemic had a major impact, and continues to have an effect on access to services.

“In some cases, these changes have led to improvements, but in other ways exacerbated issues.

“For example, access to GP services has become easier and more convenient for those who prefer remote appointments, using digital technology.

“However, when people need a face-to-face appointment, they often report access becoming harder.

“There are further plans to expand the workforce, including social prescribing link workers, health and wellbeing coaches and care co-ordinators.”

The town’s out-of-hours service – i-Heart Barnsley – changed last month to ‘enhance’ its offer to those who require an appointment when surgeries are closed.

“The i-Heart Barnsley model is now being provided through a combination of GP practice and hub locations across the town.

“These enhanced appointments will be delivered by a range of professionals, including GPs, and will provide urgent same-day appointments and appointments up to two weeks ahead.

“In May, the Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group (now ICB Barnsley) received the Healthwatch report on access to GP services.

“This report, along with other feedback and insights – including GP patient surveys – has informed plans and the ICB is continuing to work with Healthwatch to raise awareness of developments and improvements aimed to improve access and patient experience.

“GP Practices in Barnsley continue to offer a variety of appointment types including face-to-face, video and telephone consultations to meet patients’ needs.

“Currently, approximately 80 per cent of appointments are face-to-face.

“It is clear that there is lots of work going on to address the issues.

“We would like to explore how this can be best communicated back to the patients so they are involved in the journey and can see that work is being done to address the issues.”

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock called on the government to recruit more GPs.

“We need more GPs here in Barnsley and across the country.

“A Labour government will give the NHS what it needs to see people on time, as opposed to the Conservative government that consistently over promises and under delivers.”